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Wallin/Dyani/Dahlbäck - Burning In Stockholm

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Artist: Wallin/Dyani/Dahlbäck

Album: Burning In Stockholm

Label: Atavistic

Review date: Jan. 24, 2005

Burning In Stockholm is a 1981 recording from pianist Per Henrik Wallin, whose usual trio also featured bassist Torbjörn Hultcrantz and the little-known drummer Erik Dahlbäck. Here, Hultcrantz is replaced by the fine South African bassist Johnny Dyani.

There’s the word “burning” in the album title, and Mats Gustafsson refers to “fire” in the CD jacket. Stockholm really is a fiery record, but not in the sense that it’s angry-sounding. Stockholm is explosive, but it’s also joyful. The composed sections are mostly jovial and in major keys, and they set the tone for the rest of the album. Wallin doesn’t play these composed sections so much as he dismantles them, often playing with such wild enthusiasm that he’s able to segue easily back into the free sections that surround them. I’m struggling to aptly characterize Wallin’s piano playing here – lots of improvising pianists seem to mix traditional and free, tonal and atonal, but few do it with Wallin’s fluidity. Wallin’s playing is obviously influenced by American free jazz musicians, but it’s never self-consciously dense or loud, or even particularly abstract.

The free playing on Stockholm is always connected to the blues and to more traditional jazz styles; even when these three are at their most rhythmically adventurous, they’re never far from the harmonic language of jazz. Dyani sounds great in that context – he often plays walking bass lines that aren’t so much a driving force, but rather a base to accompany Wallin’s explorations. Dyani is also fantastic in more soloistic sections – his playing is remarkably nimble and filled with characteristic huge slides.

Burning In Stockholm notably includes snippets of the song “America” from West Side Story and “The Star Spangled Banner.” The trio plays these melodies with the same drive with which they play fragments of boogie-woogie and bebop, though, so the group’s use of these American tunes probably was motivated less by politics than by a desire to capture the energy of those songs. Like a Sousa march, Burning In Stockholm is jubilant, confident and irrepressible. It’s also – yes – burning.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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